Handling the holidays with special needs

We’ve had a lot going on lately, and sometimes it’s hard to manage Lovebug’s sensory needs in the middle of all of it.  I’m still learning so much about her, what she needs, how to be proactive, and how best to help her.  We’ve been dealing with this at some level for years, but we didn’t know for sure what we were dealing with until just a year and a half ago.  Sometimes I feel like I’ve got it down and it’s smooth sailing.  Other times I feel like I’m such a newbie at all of this.

Some of the other blogs I follow have done such a great job at giving tips for making the holidays easier on our kids, and on ourselves.  Like this post by Hartley’s Life with 3 Boys.  It’s an awesome post that I wish I had read before Christmas! I definitely need to catch up on my favorite blogs.

Over all, we did try to manage Lovebug’s sensory needs, but I definitely could have done a better job in some cases.

Things we did right:

* At the beginning of December, we wrote out all the fun activities we would be doing that month, so she was prepared.  We do this every month, but December was particularly full of activities.  I also let her know which ones were mandatory, and which ones were flexible in case she needed an “at home day”.

* We limit the transitions by having Christmas lunch at my parents house, along with the in-laws.  No driving from place to place or rushing – we just all gather together in one place!

* Made sure to pull her aside from time to time during the festivities to give her a break from all the noise.  Even when she’s surrounded by people she loves, it gets overwhelming listening to 10 people all talk at once.

* Asking the grandparents to limit her gifts to one package to open.  By the time she gets one from everyone, it adds up.  Most of the time once she’s opened one thing, she just wants to focus on that and play with it.  She gets over-stimulated with too many things to open at once, and then gets confused about what she should focus on and play with and that frustrates her.

* I relaxed on her clothing.  I didn’t care that she wore snow boots instead of dressy shoes to Christmas Eve services at church.  In fact, I thought it looked super cute!  I didn’t buy her a new Christmas outfit for Christmas Day because I just wanted her to be comfortable and happy, not cute and miserable.

* We put sensory chew toys in her stocking so she could use them right away.  We also gave her food treats that we were ok with her eating right away instead of a lot of sugar that would cause bad reactions, or get taken away right after opening – neither of which is a fun option.

Things I need to improve on:

* I didn’t bring a “chew toy” or gum for her to Christmas at my parent’s house.  We finally managed to round up some rings for her to chew on when she was feeling the need, but it was almost a major problem.

* I went to visit some friends for a couple days this week.  Lovebug was having such a great time playing with the other kids, and I was having fun chatting with my friend…that I ended up letting her go 5 hours without eating!  She didn’t even ask for food, which is unusual, so I didn’t even realize the mistake until the meltdowns started and it was too late.  Thankfully, some isolation for a few minutes and some protein fixed the problem.  We recovered, but I should have been proactive and made her take a break for a snack so that never would have happened.

* I tried once again to give her Christmas PJs on Christmas Eve. This was once a tradition when she was too little to tell us her preferences.  This is a tradition that ends this year.  Next year, we will start a new one that works with her needs.  I thought I had found a great pair of PJs that would work for her, but nope!  So, she gets all excited about opening the present, only to be disappointed that they weren’t comfortable.  Good thing she was perfectly satisfied to go put on her favorite jammies that she “wears every single day in the winter”! There is just no point in beating a dead horse and trying to make this work.  I need to choose one that works for HER.

* I need to notice when she is needing proprioceptive input sooner.  I find myself saying “calm down, let’s get control” or something similar way too much when what I really need to do is go throw her on the bed and tickle her for a few minutes, or have her carry a heavy box into the other room for me.  Once the light bulb goes off and I do these things, it makes a WORLD of difference.  I need need to catch myself sooner.

I’m sure there are many, many more things I could put in each of those categories.  We are still learning, and trying to figure it all out.  She hasn’t been in any sort of therapy this past year (couldn’t afford it with our insurance), but we are hoping to change that.  Ideally, once we move and get settled we will get her re-evaluated and hopefully start some OT.  At the very least, I am going to continue to learn all I can about her SPD and increase our therapies at home.  What we do works, and helps a LOT, but I know there is more I can be doing.

Now, to focus on how to manage the transition of moving across the country with her.  Thankfully, she’s excited about the move, but we will spend 2 days in the car, a night in a hotel, then 10 days living in temporary housing before moving into our new place.  WHEW! That’s a lot of change.  Will definitely need to manage the SPD and ADHD during all of that!

1 comment to Handling the holidays with special needs

  • Renee

    Have she been evaluated for the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) yet? That’s required, and will make sure that any future PCSes are to places where there’s the support she needs. The military is AWESOME for needed therapies.

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